- Jordan Hyatt
Associate Professor of Criminology and Justice Studies, Drexel University
- Synøve Nygaard Andersen
Postdoctoral Fellow in Sociology, University of Oslo
The United States has the largest number of people incarcerated in the world – about 25% of all people imprisoned worldwide are in American prisons and jails.
Additionally, correctional officers, often challenged by long shifts, worries about their own safety and stressful working conditions, have a life expectancy that is on average a decade less than the general population.
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But reform efforts could also extend to changing the prison environment itself.
We are American and Norwegian criminologists. While trying to better understand our countries’ justice systems, we have spent significant time in correctional facilities across Scandinavia and the U.S. There, we often try to identify overlooked similarities within these very different places – and ways they could learn from each other.
A recent collaboration between correctional services in Pennsylvania and several Scandinavian countries presents an opportunity to test these ideas. One Pennsylvania prison unit we are researching adapts elements from Scandinavian prisons, and offers a window into what drawing from other penal systems might look like in the U.S.
Prisons in Scandinavia
Correctional systems throughout much of Scandinavia are guided by a general set of philosophical principles. In Sweden, these standards emphasize rehabilitation and encourage meaningful change, so incarcerated people can lead a better life.